Meet the tech firm keeping sportspeople safe

Interview | Sport | Technology

Picture: James Duffy (right) with co-founders Barry Green and Kirk Ryan

Business Leader spoke to James Duffy, a co-founder of the global sports safety app ‘Busby’. 

Launched in 2019, the free to download app, endorsed by Apple, is helping people with active lifestyles stay safe with a response mechanism that alerts emergency contacts if they’re involved in an accident.  James told us about designing the revolutionary technology and his plans for 2021. 

Can you give us an overview of Busby?

Busby is the only automatic incident response app globally after Apple reviewed their guidelines to allow us to launch this revolutionary technology.

Busby works anywhere in the world. Whether users are running, cycling, motorcycling, skiing or even horse riding. If a user is involved in an incident, Busby gives them 30 seconds to move or respond.

If there is no movement or response their exact location is sent to emergency contacts so help can arrive quicker than ever before. We have now been launched for 12 months, have users in over 84 countries and saved a number of lives already, which is priceless.

Users collect points for each mile they do which can be spent on unlocking discounts and rewards or entering monthly competitions within the app’s reward page.  Busby is free to download.

Where did the idea for Busby come from?

We started developing Busby after our co-founder Barry had a terrible cycling incident near Liverpool Airport around 5 years ago. At that point we started looking into ways in which we could detect incidents. The early days products were hardware based but we realised that not many people wanted to pay £60-£100 for a beacon that does one thing (incident detection). At that point, we focussed our development on software.

Why do you think it is important for riders to download the Busby app? 

It’s free and it can save your life. You never know the minute, but if you have Busby on in the background of your phone it’ll detect an incident and send your location to your chosen emergency contact. Not only that, but Busby has additional safety features such as pre-warning drivers that you’re nearby, a patent pending GroupRide feature, and Busby Flare feature if you need medical or mechanical SOS support whilst out on the roads.

On top of all the safety features, you can get exclusive in-app discounts with Nike, Adidas, North Face, New Balance, Under Armour, Reebok and even retail stores such as Halfords, GoOutdoors and Footlocker. Why buy a pair of trainers or a bike full price when you can get 10-40% off within the Busby app?

Is the app aimed specifically at riders or can other fitness fanatics use it? 

It is a multi activity. We started developing  Busby as a cycling safety app, but our main message at the moment is Busby is for everyone. Runners, Walkers, E-Scooter Riders, Motorcyclists, Horse Riders and even Skiers. When you press GO, Busby asks which activity you are doing and the algorithm adjusts accordingly to give you additional safety, and to give your family additional peace of mind.  You can then allow Busby to run in the background of your phone, and off you go!

Have you seen a change in number of app downloads during the Covid-19 pandemic? 

Since the pandemic we have seen a massive increase in users downloading Busby globally. A third of the UK don’t cycle for one of two reasons, either they don’t have a bike, or they think it’s too dangerous. By downloading Busby for free we can increase your safety on the roads and even give you a discount on a new bike. I suppose that’s one and a half of the two boxes ticked!

How does Busby stand out from other fitness or location track apps? 

The incident detection is automatic meaning users don’t have to press a button to send for help. It also doesn’t track users. A key point for us as developers was not to track users and all users are anonymous. Busby monitors the sensors within your phone, if it notices something irregular such as an increase in G-force, it starts a countdown timer. If there is no movement or response to the app within the set countdown timer then the user’s location is sent to their chosen emergency contacts. There are a lot of smart controls within the technology which prevents false alarms like if you were to drop your phone. We spent the best part of 2 years testing the technology before launching it to the public.

What are your expansion plans for 2021?

Our plans are to scale globally, add more functionality and features to the app and to increase the awareness of Busby amongst other activities like e-scootering and running which we only started protecting as of September 2020.

We are also developing our second app, RoadRadar which is for vehicle drivers and systems. RoadRadar will pre-warn drivers that there is a Busby vulnerable road user in a dangerous proximity. Raising driver awareness and preventing any potential human error.

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